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How To Score a Real-Time Marketing Touchdown

01/20/2015 12:47 EST | Updated 03/22/2015 05:59 EDT

Each year, football fans from across North America and around the world gather around their television sets for the Big Game -- the culmination of the NFL season. From the pre-game festivities to the halftime show and all of the plays in between, millions tune in to cheer for their respective teams.

One of the big draws on Super Bowl Sunday isn't just the action on the field -- it's what happens during each commercial break. The Super Bowl and advertising have long since been intertwined in the public consciousness across North America. The post-game analysis includes a look not only at the plays of the game, but the ads that succeeded and those that missed the mark.

And as multiple screens have come into play -- from fans streaming the game to those following along on Twitter or Facebook -- opportunities for marketers are only growing. But having more screens on game day doesn't necessarily mean that campaigns are more likely to resonate with sports fans. With so much wall-to-wall messaging, how can marketers break through?

A new perspective on game-day marketing

In recent years, marketers have been looking for new, impactful ways of making a splash on game night. In the past, the focus for the big game was on the ad itself. Once the ad aired, there didn't need to be anything new created or shared.

More recently, it's been the timely and agile marketers who have had memorable game night campaigns. Remember Oreo, and their timely Tweet during a blackout at Super Bowl XLVII? This has become a common example of real-time marketing.

At the time, it was declared that Oreo "won the night," despite the big, splashy Super Bowl ads from a host of big brands that hit TV screens that same night.

Since Oreo made its big splash, many marketers have tried to duplicate the success of the real-time strategy, with some more successful than others. So what makes it work?

Finding the right moment in the right way

While not a must, real-time marketing has been especially impactful when brands find a way to capture attention during consumer events with mass appeal. While the 2014 Oscars was filled with some big brand-led moments, including the infamous selfie seen around the world, a number of companies took advantage of the wealth of attention during awards night.

NASA found its opportunity in connection to multi-nominated film Gravity, sharing some images of space using the hashtag #RealGravity -- a natural connection between the event and the brand that was cheerful and hit at the right time. Second-screening and social media engagement is high, so it's an opportune time to capture consumer attention. But it isn't just about finding that one moment in time to have impact, you need a strategy.

Look for ways to build momentum

One-offs have worked but they aren't the only real-time strategy to consider. For example, a sustained campaign at this past summer's FIFA World Cup proved successful for Adidas. As part of the brand's "#allin or nothing" campaign, the company rolled out timely, engaging content featuring top athletes throughout the entirety of the tournament -- and this happened regularly throughout the 32-day event.

Twitter stated that the campaign was met with 2.1 million mentions on the platform, which represented a greater share-of-voice than the other official sponsors -- a feat given the fever pitch of conversation that took place over the course of the cup. Adidas spent months working with their teams to create compelling content that was then thoughtfully shared, at the right time, with the sports fan in mind, and was also true to the brand.

Do your research -- and take a chance when it's right

A number of notably successful, real-time marketing campaigns have been lauded in past years, but at the same time, some brands have been met with backlash when attempts have not been well-received. This type of strategy demands quick thinking and quick action, but never at the expense of the brand. Marketers should make sure these timely campaigns are fully thought out and leave no room for regret down the road.

With the way consumers take in big events like the Super Bowl, real-time marketing should be a consideration for all marketers when it comes to the overall strategy. Traditional advertising undoubtedly plays a role in what consumers will take in, but big events have come to mean eyes on many screens.

With the Super Bowl in particular, the ads will of course be a topic of discussion the day after, but as a standalone strategy, those that aren't considering the impact of real-time marketing may find their message in the middle of the pack instead of in the end zone.

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